Thursday, September 12, 2013

That Uncomfortable Moment When...

In the course of my work, I have facilitated resolutions to many interpersonal conflicts.  It's something I feel confident doing.  Even when I have to take the two combatants into our boardroom for a monitored "airing of feelings" session, I only get a little bit nervous.  Not all relationships can be patched up, but most can.  It's very satisfying to walk into a room with two people who are giving each other the stink-eye, and walk out with good feelings all around.

Most of the time, I'm refereeing between two of my own subordinates, or between one subordinate and a manager from another department.  Subordinates are the easiest to deal with, obviously.  They have to listen to me and they have to make an effort towards resolving the problem, if they like their jobs. 

However, it's a whole other kettle of fish when I have to confront a peer with their behaviour.  Especially when that peer, another manager, happens to be someone I count among my friends.  We lean on each other for support during bad days, and sometimes we spend time together on weekends.

This friend of mine has been getting too aggressive with my staff.  A couple of days ago, she loudly confronted one of my ladies in an open area of the office, within earshot of at least a half-a-dozen people.  My staffer wasn't entirely blameless, but that doesn't justify my friend's outburst. 

My friend has had a bad couple of weeks, and my feeling is that she was indulging in "kicking the dog", without being conscious of it.  You know, that situation where your clients and service providers are ticking you off, but you have to be polite to them, so when you finally have a reason to get irritated with an underling you take out all your frustrations on them?  That.

I can't ignore the situation.  Our organization has policies in place that specifically protect employees from harassment ("any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms, or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome").  This is required by the Ministry of Labour of Ontario.

I have two options.  1)  I could report the behaviour to my boss, and let him handle it, in which case my friend would probably come back to me and ask why I didn't just speak to her myself; or 2) I could speak to her myself.  And I will, speak with her I mean.  I feel that I owe it to both of us to give that approach a try.  But I have been going over and over in my mind what I need to say and how I might best say it, and I'm still not feeling sure.

The thing is, in the five years since I've known her, we've never had a serious disagreement.  This will be the biggest challenge to our friendship so far.  Will she be willing to hear "constructive criticism" from me?  Will this affect our working relationship?  Will it create politics amongst our other friends in the office?  I feel that we probably have a strong enough bond that she will be open to what I have to say.  At the same time, I'm scared!

Either way, I'm going to be brave and go ahead with the confrontation as best I can.  It was not possible to do it today, so it'll be tomorrow or Monday.  Wish me luck!


Vanessa T said...

I'll be praying for you, Spark. Confrontation of any kind can be unpleasant, but with a friend/co-worker, the pressure can be even more intense.

For what it's worth, I think you're going about it the right way, and I have faith in you. :)


G. B. Miller said...

I wish more people had personally confronted me about my abysmal behavior over the years as opposed to going the rules oriented route.

Would've been a heck of lot easier in the long run

I wish you nothing but the best.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Good Luck. Hoping the friend recognizes that you took the most considerate approach to resolving the conflict and works with you to fix things.

DarcKnyt said...

I'll second the prayer for you Spark. I know how awkweird things can be like this at work. But I know the Lord has given you fantastic skills in this, and you'll come through it the best way possible.

Best of luck!

Granny Annie said...

What is her age? Sounds like menopause to me. I hate to say that but from my own personal experience, I changed considerably in the workplace during that time of my life. Of course you could never ask such a thing.

Jenski said...

Tough situation. I hope confronting her about the situation goes well!

Lynn said...

I hope it worked out OK. That's a tough situation. Sorry I'm late commenting - I have been out of town.

LL Cool Joe said...

Oh that's a tough one, and I assume you've spoken to your friend now. How did it go? I too apologise for being late here. Illness and kids got in the way!